How to get a job with no experience

Getting an entry-level job in today’s labour market can feel like a Sisyphean task. We outline the tips and tricks to bolstering your CV with no work experience.

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Written and reviewed by:
Helena Young
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Few phrases conjure more scepticism than ‘entry-level role’ in recruitment. Companies seem to delight in luring in graduates or school leavers with the promise of a low barrier to entry – and then asking for a plethora of employer references.

It seems to be getting more difficult to break into an industry. Many companies have paused hiring for new starters in today’s job market. In fact, a survey by Virgin Media found 37% of 25-34-year-olds think it’s impossible to get a job without having experience in that field.

Young people shouldn’t give up yet, however. There are still ways to boost your CV and make yourself more attractive to recruiters, without having to waste time sending yet another dreaded cover letter – as we explain below.

1. Do volunteer work

Alongside doing a positive thing for your community, volunteering can also be a great way to gain vital work experience. Often, social enterprises or charities will ask for assistant roles that can give you hard and soft skills to get leaps ahead of fellow applicants.

For example, you can acquire technical skills like data analysis in a research organisation, or social media management in a marketing department.

Where you can, volunteer in a field related to the industry you’re interested in working in. But even if it feels unrelated, there may be transferable skills to highlight in a future job interview.

Volunteering is usually short-term. Even if you’re not sure what work you want to do, it is a good way to gain insights into the work environment and culture in different industries which can help you decide your career path or refine existing interests.

2. Complete free training courses

We’re living in the age of information, and there are currently endless possibilities to expand your mind and your skill set by completing a free online course.

Alongside telling employers you’re a smart cookie, completing a course in your own free time will also demonstrate your interest in the role, and that you have a proactive approach to your career development.

The advantage of choosing your own learning path is that you can identify specialist skills that are in high-demand from employers, such as free AI or machine learning courses.

It’s worth doing some research to understand which providers are best-known in your sector so that you can polish up your CV with the shiniest, most reputable qualifications. The National Careers Service offers a ready-made list of accredited, free courses.

3. Attend industry events

It’s not what you know, it’s who you know – and when you don’t know anyone, it’s time to connect with people who might be able to help you get your foot in the office door.

Networking events are often free to attend and usually attract industry professionals who can offer you advice or work opportunities to build up your resume. Recruitment managers might even be in attendance, looking for talented and motivated attendees to snare. 

Don’t feel embarrassed about handing out your contact details or messaging someone on LinkedIn – all they can say is no, after all!

Even if nothing comes immediately, it can be an easy way to establish a relationship that aids your career progression and development. You’ll also learn about the current sector challenges and market trends – a good way to make an impression at your next job interview.

4. Target your job search

Buried amongst the mound of misleading job adverts and descriptions, there are a few golden nugget entry-level roles.

These are usually from companies that are genuinely hiring candidates with no experience – or those brave enough to get rid of CVs altogether – you just have to know how to find them.

The obvious starting point is to look for filters like “entry-level” or “junior” under the experience sections. Or, seek out keywords like “entry-level” or “graduate” along with your desired job title in the search bar.

Another tip is to check out more niche job listings related to one industry. Often, less-experienced applicants aren’t aware these exist, but they often have a higher concentration of genuine entry-level positions than Indeed or LinkedIn. 

Popular sector-specific job sites include:

  • Only Marketing Jobs for marketing roles
  • GAAPWeb for accounting or finance roles
  • Media Beans for media jobs 
  • The Legists for law jobs

5. Apply anyway

Here’s a secret: businesses can be incredibly lazy when it comes to writing job descriptions. Oftentimes, firms will recycle adverts from years ago with very few changes, which can lead to Frankenstein-esque postings that aren’t an accurate reflection of a position.

Perhaps you feel strongly you’d do well in a role, even though you’re missing a couple of bullet points from the description. In this case, if skills being described are learnable within the first few months of a job (also known as the probation period) and don’t require years of study to acquire, it’s always a good idea to apply anyway.

Especially as more workers seek out meaningful work opportunities, enthusiasm and passion for the role is becoming increasingly important over qualifications. 

Showcase your passion for the role over experience with a killer cover letter, and many hiring managers will often overlook a thinner CV.

6. Start a business

You know you have the skills and the passion, but you can’t find an organisation that you want to work for. So why not make your own? 

There is currently a wave of young people leaving school and starting their own businesses or freelance service. That’s not to say it’s easy. Founding a company brings challenges, and requires a strong purpose to keep your end goal in sight.

That said, if you decide to take this road, the result will be more rewarding than an acceptance letter: it will be something that you, yourself built from scratch. 

Just remember, when you do come to hiring your first entry-level role, when you write ‘no experience necessary’ on the job advert, be sure you mean it.

Our guide on how to start a business has more advice, from registering with Companies House, to building a website.

Written by:
Helena Young
Helena is Lead Writer at Startups. As resident people and premises expert, she's an authority on topics such as business energy, office and coworking spaces, and project management software. With a background in PR and marketing, Helena also manages the Startups 100 Index and is passionate about giving early-stage startups a platform to boost their brands. From interviewing Wetherspoon's boss Tim Martin to spotting data-led working from home trends, her insight has been featured by major trade publications including the ICAEW, and news outlets like the BBC, ITV News, Daily Express, and HuffPost UK.

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